He staggers.

A man treads lightly down a street in Soho.

The Pillars of Hercules is there. So it must be Greek Street.

It feels like a Sunday.

And he’s holding his hand up to his face. The end of his nose is missing. Blood on his fingers.

When he staggers it’s to avoid the woman passing next to him. Who doesn’t look at him. She doesn’t see embarrassment on the parts of his face not shielded by his hand.

What remains of his nose is protected from scrutiny. What remains of its tip is two streets away, up three creaking flights, behind a door whose keyhole is hard to find because the landing light broke seven weeks ago.

It’s in a sink. Blood along its rim.

And if he shouted at the top of his lungs, someone standing at the sink might hear.

No one who uses that toilet has ever seen their reflection in the tap.

The broken bulb will still be there in a month.

Suddenly he’s gone.

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The window seat

Sade, the sweetest taboo playing in Starbucks on Wardour Street

A man sits down next to another man and they’ll leave separately.

The people passing the window look the inhabitants square in the face. They can afford to be brazen, secure in their anonymity.

The denizens of the cafe experience the world through the periphery of their vision. They look at phones, laptops, iPads, plausible objects of their attention, giving the lie to side glances and edgeward stares.

Yellow and red light against the roof of the black cab.

Indicator lights flash suddenly in the glasses of an old man in the road, who jumps back from an onslaught of rickshaws.

He looks out of place, though he comes to Soho alone every other evening and wanders in thwarted hope.

Acrylic hair tumbles from shoulders as a woman inspects a broken heel on favourite shoes, and swears.

Silently.

It’s all a silent film from the window seat. Only the traffic can be heard alongside the blaring music.

Alison Moyet.

The milling thousands, the shouting, spitting, laughing, drunken thousands outside are silent.

Shoulders are knocking against shoulders in the crush, eyes are touching each other across streets and from doorways polluted with exhaled smoke.

Only Whitney Houston can be heard in the window seat. Bodies are examined at the edges of vision by eyes attached to screens.

Outside, the swagger.

Inside, the forced languor.

Attention solicited.

Eyes fixed on screens

Peripheral vision finely honed.

Madonna.

“Is this a parody playlist?” Says one man to another.

Almost.

Nothing could be said here that wouldn’t sound like an opening line, in this refuge for people who lack the swagger of the world outside the window. Hopefuls who can only speak in reply.

And the man leaves and passes the window seat.

A silent film.

Mint tea.

Michael Jackson.

Brewer Street

The French bulldog sticks its bum in the air and growls at the broom, playfully brandished by the crouching street sweeper.

Everyone’s in on the game.

The owner.

The smiling tourists.

The streetlights.

The woman looking for business.

Another looking for pockets.

Everyone.

Even,

“Matilda,” chuckles the owner, giving the lead a little pull as the street sweeper gives the broom a little push, and Matilda lunges unsuccessfully and a wallet pushed into a back pocket is slipped out again by careful fingers.

A car crawls down Brewer street, sweeping past the pantomime, forcing people onto the curb, pressed together momentarily.

And suddenly the audience is no longer the audience.

The broom is no longer Matilda’s bait.

The stage is suddenly just pavement.

There will never be a curtain call.

 

 

Watching like a god behind glass.

She doesn’t know why she’s spotted him; the human currents lapping the sides of Golden Square tend to anonymise. But his face stands out, somehow.

No.

Not his face.

His glance.

He glanced at the man next to him on the bench.

And again.

Astrid knows that glance. She leans closer to the glass.

Shuffles on her stool.

Nursing coffee.

The man next to him (she labels him ‘Blondie’ and leaves the glancer nameless, following some law of her own), he shuffles on the bench.

But a cup shatters behind her, and she glances round.

Apologies are exchanged between two girls and a member of staff is already on hand with a dustpan and brush.

She looks back again.

Silently curses.

Blondie and the man are already speaking.

She missed the moment, and she’s pissed off.

It’s so rare to see it, watching like a god behind glass.

Is this Soho?

“Soho?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Soho?”

“Um… this is Soho.”

The man looks extremely satisfied with this answer, glances at his studenty-looking sons either side of him and and strides onwards down Berwick Street.

Adrian doesn’t know why he thought they were his sons. Perhaps the ineffably dad-like waistcoat made it the most available assumption.

He glances back down the street but can’t see them.

This is the second time he’s been asked for directions today (the guy didn’t actually ask to be directed, but it falls more or less into the same category). Could he make the incident into a blog post?

Almost definitely not.